Statement on Behalf of the Archdiocese of Chicago on Updating its COVID-19 Mitigation Protocols for ‘Bridge Phase’
The State of Illinois and City of Chicago are in the Bridge Phase, which allows for increased capacity limits. For social gatherings, capacity is 250 people indoor, 500 people outdoor. Parishes are hereby permitted to plan for increased attendance for Masses and liturgies which is approximately every other pew of the church.
In all instances, all mitigation efforts remain required – individuals are to maintain as much physical distance as possible, hand washing/sanitization is essential. Registration is still required to manage capacity limits as well as assist in contact tracing efforts, as needed.
As we make progress to overcome the pandemic, many in our community look forward to removing their masks given the recent announcements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health departments and state and city officials. At the same time, we recognize that less than 40% of adults in Illinois are fully vaccinated and there remains a risk of infection for many. Because of this, state and local authorities support the prerogative of local establishments and organizations to continue requiring masks for all visitors and/or to require verification of vaccination status for those who prefer not to wear a mask.
With all this in mind, the Archdiocesan COVID-19 Task Force is taking a hopeful, yet cautious, approach during these next several weeks leading up to Phase 5 when we anticipate health department guidance to permit an even greater relaxation of mitigation efforts. As such, we have developed the following guidance while we remain in the Bridge Phase:
Parishioners at some parishes are very eager to remove their masks while parishioners at other parishes are more hesitant for many reasons (e.g., their community has experienced a higher incidence of COVID-19 infections, the high risk to immuno-compromised individuals, etc.). Given this diversity, parishes have two options for Masses and liturgies:
allow fully vaccinated individuals to refrain from wearing masks as long as they bring proof of vaccination and the parish’s greeter/hospitality team has the capacity to validate attendees’ vaccination status – see below.
continue to require masks for all attendees at Masses and liturgies until we reach Phase 5 (at which time it is expected that all mask mandates will be lifted). This option is best if a parish does not have a sufficiently staffed, dedicated greeter team to assume the added responsibility of validating attendees’ vaccination status.
For either option, it is critical that the pastor consult with his Parish COVID-19 Reopening Team and Parish Council to gather input into the decision and process to move forward. Additionally, registration for Mass and liturgies must continue until we reach Phase 5.
If option 1 is selected, the pastor and leadership team should clearly communicate to all parishioners and registered attendees the expectation that vaccinated individuals should bring a written record of completed vaccination to show the greeter/hospitality team upon entering the church. Please note that a picture of the vaccination card on the parishioner’s phone will suffice.
Additionally, parishes can approach the use of masks in offices in the same manner – either allowing fully vaccinated individuals to refrain from wearing masks if written verification of vaccination status is provided or requiring masks by all staff until Phase 5.
Wearing masks will continue to be required of all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in all archdiocesan schools and at all archdiocesan school events, whether indoor or outdoor, through the remainder of the school year. Since the vast majority of students and children are not yet vaccinated, this application of the mask mandate makes it easier to administer on the part of school leadership and continues our ongoing efforts to keep young people safe. This also remains in accord with Illinois State Board of Education guidance.
When we reach Phase 5 and local departments of public health share updated guidelines, we will adapt our guidance, as well.